Jeff Haywood (Edinburgh) talked much about online education and the future of this at Edinburgh. We were encouraged to be cautious about ‘new’ things as they tended not to be truly revolutionary in an educational sense (probably something a lot of us can relate to) and that change in education is slow (ditto). Not surprisingly, MOOCs were discussed: a theme that ran throughout the conference. Haywood cautioned us that whatever we think about MOOCs they are having an effect on the business of universities and cannot be ignored. He also contrasted the type and level of marketing of MOOCs compared with other courses from the same university.
Bryan Mathers spoke of needing a culture that learnt from everything it does, not just its successes, and also measuring properly what it does.
Fiona Harvey (Southampton) summarised what the ALT MOOC SIG has been doing over the past year, forthcoming events (e.g. webinars), and shared her (very useful) collection of links http://www.scoop.it/u/fiona-harvey. A meeting of the SIG later in the day enabled it to start planning future work.
The DigiLit Leicester project http://www.digilitleic.com/, from Lucy Atkins, Josie Fraser and Richard Hall, includes the city council, DMU and all 23 secondary schools in Leicester, on developing teachers’ digital literacy skills. We heard about how teachers were involved from the start in developing a framework which would help them to assess their competency.
Catherine Cronin’s (Galway) talk ‘Navigating the marvellous: openness in education’ inspired much comment and conversation. Her key themes were: open, divide, spaces and identity. With thought provoking quotes on openness from Michael Apple (‘Education is inherently an ethical and political act’) and Jim Groom (‘…openness is an ethos not a licence…’) we were encouraged to see openness to include using open resources, sharing materials and thoughts, and enabling students to do the same. The divide included that which is suggested as being between formal and informal learning, with the latter being invalid. Spaces were real/online, open bounded and experienced: were we ever in a space where we felt so ‘other’ we couldn’t breathe? We were also reminded that a learning space (e.g. VLE, classroom) is not the learning space.
Andrew Smith (OU) gave an example of using Twitter to make his active courses visible to a wider audience, raising awareness of the courses and enabling those outside the student cohort to interact with the material.
David White (U for the Arts) looked into pupils’ expectation of technology in the classroom. Pupils have little expectation of technology being incorporated into pedagogy in HE, perhaps because of way they saw teachers use technology in school. Whereas pupils believe themselves to be digitally literate they perhaps are overestimating their true ability. Telling pupils not to Google is ineffective as often it appears to work! Better to help them to refine their search techniques.
Graeme Pate (Glasgow) gave an example of using Twitter with student teachers. Their Tweets were either: reinforcing, questioning (including students answering questions of other students ahead of the tutor) and linking. Though students were keen to use twitter (including in other modules) there were practical issues such as recharging mobile devices (insufficient points), Wi-Fi overload, BYOD disparity (did this disadvantage some?), multitasking challenges etc.
Audrey Watters explained that she was a folklorist. Her keynote: ‘Ed-tech, Frankenstein’s monster and teacher machines’ challenged us to examine both our distrust of technology and our fascination. She urged us to love and care for our machine lest they become monsters, and to engage with them not just be mesmerised by the shiny.
Martin Hawksey (ALT) reported on the ocTEL 2014 course, particularly on the use of open badges. Different kinds of badges were made available, ranging in the amount and type of engagement that was needed to be awarded them, from simply checking in (which showed who was ‘there’ that week), through commenting, blogging etc.
In ‘Hygiene factors: using VLE minimum standards to avoid student dissatisfaction’, Peter Reed (Liverpool) asked us, what is the opposite of satisfaction? Herzberg suggests ‘no satisfaction’ rather than dissatisfaction, and this session looked at what students wanted expected from the VLE and hence what absences caused dissatisfaction. It was found that staff were largely predicting what students wanted on the VLE (e.g. lecture notes, past exam papers, further reading lists, timetables, contact details etc.) but greatly underestimating how much they wanted them.
Thanks to everyone who put made this year’s conference possible. Next year’s ALT-C with be ‘Shaping the future of learning together’, September 8-10, 2015, held at the University of Manchester.
See you there!